Well, the patch 8.2 livestream has ended, and with it, an avalanche of press coverage from influencers – Sloot talking about the Heart of Azeroth, Taliesin and Evitel discussing the mount equipment system and some of the other content, and further clarifications from the written Blizzard content published with the end of the stream.
To be honest, I am excited for this patch. It sounds like there is a good variety of content and multiple zones to explore, which is key for me personally. It also sounds like the raid and dungeon opening are going to be much closer than we would expect and are unlikely to be bound to 8.2.5 release.
Let’s talk about this biggest reveals!
Nazjatar – Broken Shore + Timeless Isle + Bodyguards = ?
Nazjatar is the big foundational zone for the patch content, and sees us aiming to establish a foothold in the zone with the support of local allies (who, naturally, have taken sides in our conflict as well). With the base building comes the standard recipe for a WoW content patch zone addition – new reputation to earn, new prizes to collect, and a zone story that leads to a concluding raid. All of this seems relatively good to me, but they are trying to get a bit more dynamic with randomly spawning events (although not as dynamic as my previous suggestions)! The goal is to use a zone story as the new chapter in the war campaign, telling the tale of both the factions pushes into Nazjatar while also explaining the motivations of the non-Naga residents of the zone and seeing us finally bring down the doors and proceed into Azshara’s Eternal Palace.
With that comes a system called Combat Ally, which is basically just a bodyguard who offers daily quest options and levels up as you bring them with you in the zone to complete content. As with the base, developing your combat ally seems to be a pivotal point of content completion for the zone story, and I would expect also Pathfinder Part 2, if I had to guess. It sounds like an interesting idea, and I hope that the AI and behavior for these allies is good. I would love to see a near-direct ripoff of the Chocobo raising from Final Fantasy XIV, personally – with traits you can select to adapt tank, healer, or DPS abilities into your friend, and allowing you to hybridize them to serve multiple roles.
Mechagon – More Whimsical, but Just as Big
Mechagon focuses on the tale of a similar insurrection, with the rogue mechagnomes of Rustbolt working to overthrow the evil Arcforged and their leader, King Mechagon. This is lead-up content to the new dungeon, Operation: Mechagon, which is an 8-boss, Mythic-only mega-dungeon that sees us storming the main capital of the island to reclaim it for the denizens of Rustbolt. With this content comes a bunch of new rares and exploration content, a zone story, and a new trinket which can be customized and upgraded with punch cards to make it unique for any given player. It sounds pretty cool to me, but is seemingly more of a leisurely side-story compared to Nazjatar.
Azshara’s Eternal Palace – One Underwater Boss and The Signal of a Rift
Okay, so between Azshara’s Warbringers short and her characterization to this point, we might have been able to predict this turn, but during the press coverage of the patch event, something interesting popped out – Azshara herself is also in rebellion against N’Zoth. Her pursuit of us is due solely to the fact that she believes herself and her naga forces are strong enough to bring Azeroth to heel without N’Zoth! This makes the bosses in the raid somewhat more interesting, as the Harbinger of N’Zoth is fairly deep in the raid and makes me wonder what we’ll see there. Otherwise, we know that there’s an underwater boss with unique mechanics, Azshara herself, and the boss listing includes Rage of Azshara, which I assume will be similar to the end boss of Eye of Azshara. 8 bosses to tide us over for a tier, pretty standard stuff there.
Mount Equipment – The New, Exciting Variable
Blizzard saw fit to address a real player concern with this change, which is just lovely. At the beginning of a land-locked expansion, with zones that feature some amount of water to break up the pathing in the zone, you will see nearly everyone using one mount – a water strider. This is fine, but it also means choice is being limited severely – if you have earned a water strider already, you might have literally hundreds of mounts more exciting than the damn bugs. If you’re like me, you might want to ride your Elegon everywhere, but are limited by water.
Well, Blizzard heard your concern – sort of! Because instead of introducing flying at the start of an expansion, mitigating the problem altogether, they have added Mount Equipment! The concept is simple enough – you get a “character” slot for mount equipment, which is equipped from your Mount collection screen. The equipment grants a bonus to your mount, which can include Water Walking, Daze Prevention, or a parachute that deploys when you dismount to allow you to jump off of a mountain and safely land at the bottom. This equipment slot is bind to account, meaning your alts will gain the benefit of that equipment as well!
Even better yet, the primary driver of this change, water walking, is being handled rather artfully. If you already have a water strider mount today, you’ll get that equipment when logging in to 8.2 immediately, no bullshit or re-acquisition required. The only carve out I’ve seen so far is that mounts with particularly special effects (the Sky Golem’s gather-while-mounted ability being the main callout here) will not be able to benefit from the Mount Equipment you use. No clarification yet on how big the benefit has to be for a mount to lose the equipment bonus (would a repair mount not be able to use it? How about the transmog Yak?) but I think that is a reasonable disclaimer and one I’m personally not too hurt by – I can take Elegon and Invincible out for water strolls, and that is all that matters to me.
Pathfinder Part 2 – Two Reps to Revered, and (TBD)
8.2 brings the Pathfinder Part 2 for BfA and with it, flying. It was confirmed flying would work in Nazjatar and Mechagon (Jeremy Feasel said there was a lot of “interesting” navigation in Nazjatar with flying, so I’m scared now) and the achievement, while not fully unveiled, was revealed to require the Nazjatar rep to Revered (there are two Nazjatar reps, but the working assumption is that one is Alliance, the other Horde), Mechagon to Revered, and likely some exploration (probably just the maps of both zones). The expectation is that within around two weeks of 8.2, an average player should be in the sky. If that is truly the case, then the two reps to Revered requirement doesn’t make me all that salty and I’ll be pretty okay with that.
The Heart of Azeroth Gets an Essence-tial Infusion
I hate that I wanted to use that pun and had to spell out the feature name to get there.
Anyways…so I saved the best/worst for last, because my recent posts have been revisiting precisely why I think the current iteration of Azerite is, impolitely, hot garbage. Blizzard’s response to player feedback was the added ring in 8.1’s Season 2 gear, which gave more choices to players while not addressing the core concerns with the system. Blizzard did, to their credit, realize (too late) that having to re-earn traits on a regular basis took all the stagecraft out of the treadmill they wanted us on and gave it the accurate appearance of busywork, so the solution is twofold. The first is that Azerite as we know it will sort of continue – armor in the Head, Shoulder, and Chest slots will continue to have trait rings with Azerite effects instead of secondary stats, and you’ll have a choice of effects in each ring which can be re-selected at the Ethereal NPC for an escalating gold cost. However, you’ll no longer be bound to level the neck endlessly to continue to progress power in your gear throughout the expansion. Instead, leveling the neck will now matter because the neck itself is gaining a constellation like the Artifacts, but different.
How different? Well, rather than it being pre-built with traits and active abilities for your class and spec specifically, it consists of an empty Major slot, and 3 empty Minor slots, the Minor ones opening as you level the neck. These slots are filled with Essences, but rather than there being a roster of Major and Minor essences, each one separate from the other, an essence has both a Major and Minor trait, changing to match the slot it is inserted into. The effects are relatively similar to one another, with the major effect typically being an extrapolated version of the minor effect. This is further tweaked by the Essences having ranks akin to item rarity. A Rank 1 Essence will have the barebones effect, with Rank 2 and 3 not only increasing the numbers but also adding additional effects. A rank 1 DPS ability might do a fire AoE that costs 10% of your max health and deals damage based on that number, but the higher ranks will add a heal based on the damage done, allowing you to both do a huge fire AoE ability and also to heal for more damage than the spell cost. There are also Legendary Essences, which add nothing more than a cosmetic effect to the spell. The ability interactions are interesting and the minor versions of the traits are still fairly powerful while being passive, so overall, I am pretty excited by this!
Overall, coming out of the livestream, I am feeling fairly positive for WoW’s future under this patch – much remains to be seen, but the foundation here is a better compromise between the team’s vision of the game and meeting players in the middle.